engagement

Where is The Open Source Organization?

29 Comments 05 November 2009

Image courtesy of ExtraFunky

Image courtesy of ExtraFunky

Almost a year ago, I wrote a blog post entitled “The Non-Profit Quarterly Report.” In this post, I argued that nonprofit organizations should offer online quarterly reports, and mimic the transparency exemplified by Jonathan Schwartz’ online quarterly reports. (Jonathan is the CEO of Sun Microsystems.) John Maeda, President of the Rhode Island School of Design and social media advocate, argues that “in many cases complete clarity should be a leader’s goal rather than complete transparency.”

If you combine the concepts of organizational clarity with transparency and inclusionary decision making, then you create a new type of organization:

The Open Source Organization

One organization has stepped up to the plate to show us how it’s done: PresenTense Group.

The PresenTense Group calls itself an “open source organization.”  Co-founder Ariel Beery defines an Open Source Organization as one that “enables all members to add to it, change it, modify it and improve it. Everyone benefits from the intellectual property of the organization’s members. The whole point is to make it as collaborative and idea-generated as possible.”

In mid-September, I received this email asking me to participate in a discussion of what PresenTense should be concerned about in the coming year:

PresenTense TaggingThere were three ways to participate in the discussion: I could have walked down the street to the Tagging Party, viewed the Party live via webcam, or clicked on the link and “tagged” the key ideas that I care about. This is an example one of the most inclusionary processes I can imagine, as well as superior utilization of technology for stakeholder inclusion and engagement.

This is just one example of how PresenTense adheres to its open source philosophy. Here are others:

  • All projects begin with an open call for a steering committee. For example, an idea for a magazine section about “philanthropy and the Jewish world” grew into a new steering committee. Steering committees solicit information and input from others.
  • Every aspect of programming is open sourced: each issue of PresenTense magazine, the PresenTense Institute, and the speakers.
  • The yearly workplan itself is open sourced via PresenTense networks. PresenTense uses the input to create a general plan, asks for comments, and incorporates comments into the final workplan.

Technology is critical to being as inclusionary as possible when sharing and soliciting information. Whenever possible, PresenTense utilizes technology to include stakeholders. All educational seminars are “live tweeted,” and most are filmed and streamed live. According to Beery, “the main challenge is figuring out the the information technology issues related to open collaboration.”

And what arose from the Tagging Party and discussion? These ideas were fed into its blueprint for the year to come, which is available for viewing online  here. You can also read an article about their commitment to being an Open Source Organization here.

Transparency + Clarity + Inclusionary Decision-Making =

The Open Source Organization

When will nonprofits become open-sourced? What is the critical technology needed for open participation? What is preventing nonprofits from moving towards and open source organization? In the spirit of this post, I’m looking forward to your comments and a discussion of this concept – and incorporating your ideas back into the blog post!

Further food for thought:

Asking Questions about Transparency

Leaders Should Strive for Clarity, Not Just Transparency

About PresenTense: a grassroots social entrepreneurship venture founded in 2005 to develop and promote innovative and new ideas in the world and inspire the Jewish people. They accomplish this through educational programming, the PresenTense Magazine, and the PresenTense Institute.

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  • This is very cool. Thanks for giving us the steps to use technology to get buy-in from members regarding their needs and ideas. I really like this process.

    In addition to being an open source organziation, what if the organization provided an open source conference? The budget for the conference and why they were charging a specific fee was available for all to see. The attendees helped chose the topics for presentations. The content was open to all members even if they could not attend. And, on and on and on.

    I’d pay to be a member of an open source organization that provided open source conferences and content!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Jeff,
    Such a good comment, with lots of room for thought! There are some conferences’ programs that are truly “open sourced” – the bar-camp type of conferences. These are sometimes called “unconferences,” where the attendees choose every aspect of the programming at the conference, the day of the conference. However, you take it one step further into transparency/clarity issues. As an association professional, I’m sure you know that everyone questions conference fees and wonders what they go for. I’d pay to be a member of an open source organization that provided all transparency around conferences and content, and open sourced all the content. What does that really say? That the members are the most important aspect of the conference.

    [Reply]

  • This is very cool. Thanks for giving us the steps to use technology to get buy-in from members regarding their needs and ideas. I really like this process.

    In addition to being an open source organziation, what if the organization provided an open source conference? The budget for the conference and why they were charging a specific fee was available for all to see. The attendees helped chose the topics for presentations. The content was open to all members even if they could not attend. And, on and on and on.

    I’d pay to be a member of an open source organization that provided open source conferences and content!

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Jeff,
    Such a good comment, with lots of room for thought! There are some conferences’ programs that are truly “open sourced” – the bar-camp type of conferences. These are sometimes called “unconferences,” where the attendees choose every aspect of the programming at the conference, the day of the conference. However, you take it one step further into transparency/clarity issues. As an association professional, I’m sure you know that everyone questions conference fees and wonders what they go for. I’d pay to be a member of an open source organization that provided all transparency around conferences and content, and open sourced all the content. What does that really say? That the members are the most important aspect of the conference.

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Where is The Open Source Organization? | Community Organizer 2.0 -- Topsy.com()

  • I am excited at this example, Debra. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Several years ago, I likened true community engagement to “Gardening in the Front Yard.” This is a great example of that. (Post is here: http://is.gd/4NXoI )

    Will you please post a follow-up to share their results?
    HG

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hildy- part of the follow-up is PresenTense’s yearly workplan that they published, and how they created it, in http://www.eJewishPhilanthropy.com. They are located just down the street from me, and I will certainly be in touch with them as to how the Open Sourced Yearly Workplan is “working” for them. Great idea. I hope that’s the follow-up you wanted? I’ll also try to feature another example of their programming open sourcing. In the blog post you mention, you have a great line (or two): “Are you gardening in the front yard? Are you sharing the inner workings of what it takes to do your work, so the world can become engaged with that work? Are you being as open and inviting as you can be?” It says it all about the principle of Open Source Organizations, I think, better than anything I could have written. Thanks a lot for sharing and stopping by to comment!

    [Reply]

  • I am excited at this example, Debra. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Several years ago, I likened true community engagement to “Gardening in the Front Yard.” This is a great example of that. (Post is here: http://is.gd/4NXoI )

    Will you please post a follow-up to share their results?
    HG

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hildy- part of the follow-up is PresenTense’s yearly workplan that they published, and how they created it, in http://www.eJewishPhilanthropy.com. They are located just down the street from me, and I will certainly be in touch with them as to how the Open Sourced Yearly Workplan is “working” for them. Great idea. I hope that’s the follow-up you wanted? I’ll also try to feature another example of their programming open sourcing. In the blog post you mention, you have a great line (or two): “Are you gardening in the front yard? Are you sharing the inner workings of what it takes to do your work, so the world can become engaged with that work? Are you being as open and inviting as you can be?” It says it all about the principle of Open Source Organizations, I think, better than anything I could have written. Thanks a lot for sharing and stopping by to comment!

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for sharing this great example. I knew a little bit about PresenTense as an organization, but not these principles. There is an opportunity to link this example to a broad discussion on open source/open data/transparency in social change efforts – see the list of conversations being tracked by @socialactions over here

    http://my.socialactions.com/profiles/blogs/social-actions-and-open-data

    Lucy

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Lucy – I think you’ve really touched on the main issue I’m trying to raise, which is the broad discussion of stakeholder inclusion/transparency. I just looked at your link and I find it fascinating that at least five of us bloggers are talking about the issue in the past week, but I didn’t even know about it. I wonder if the openness of social media is pushing everyone to realize the need for greater open source/open data organizations. It will be interesting to watch this trend. Thanks so much for alerting me to Christine Negger’s post on Social Actions and Open Data Standards. I’m off to comment on her post right now!

    [Reply]

  • Thanks for sharing this great example. I knew a little bit about PresenTense as an organization, but not these principles. There is an opportunity to link this example to a broad discussion on open source/open data/transparency in social change efforts – see the list of conversations being tracked by @socialactions over here

    http://my.socialactions.com/profiles/blogs/social-actions-and-open-data

    Lucy

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Lucy – I think you’ve really touched on the main issue I’m trying to raise, which is the broad discussion of stakeholder inclusion/transparency. I just looked at your link and I find it fascinating that at least five of us bloggers are talking about the issue in the past week, but I didn’t even know about it. I wonder if the openness of social media is pushing everyone to realize the need for greater open source/open data organizations. It will be interesting to watch this trend. Thanks so much for alerting me to Christine Negger’s post on Social Actions and Open Data Standards. I’m off to comment on her post right now!

    [Reply]

  • Debra,

    Great Post!

    It seems like a real commitment to run an organization like this. As asked by a couple of other can you give us an update on them in the future?

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Chris,
    Thanks for the encouragement – I’ll definitely do that. Maybe an update post after they publish their next quarterly report? I’ll talk with them, maybe even ask the volunteers or staff about how the open sourcing works from their perspective. Great idea.

    [Reply]

  • Debra,

    Great Post!

    It seems like a real commitment to run an organization like this. As asked by a couple of other can you give us an update on them in the future?

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Chris,
    Thanks for the encouragement – I’ll definitely do that. Maybe an update post after they publish their next quarterly report? I’ll talk with them, maybe even ask the volunteers or staff about how the open sourcing works from their perspective. Great idea.

    [Reply]

  • Chris – I’ll surely do that! Thanks for stopping by.

    [Reply]

  • Chris – I’ll surely do that! Thanks for stopping by.

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Debra –
    Love the PresenTense concept. I’ve been watching them and fascinated for some time now. So many great things can happen with this model.

    Jeff,
    Love the idea of introducing this to organizations for events. I spent over 10 years managing events and attending industry events and wow would this be fantastic. The Event industry is host to some of the brightest, most energetic and innovative people, but its not always quick to accept big change or the most transparent. Talk about turning things upside down. It would certainly have an impact and I agree I’d pay to be a member of an organization “by the people for the people”. In fact, I’d be interested in working on a model like this.

    Debra, thanks for posting, I need to get out and visit PresenTense.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Mati-
    Nice to meet you here! Thanks for commenting. I think you might be also interested in the Community Driven Institute, which just announced that they will also be an open source organization. Hildy Gottlieb is really committed to open organizations (she is also a Board consultant), and as such, has opened up the doors and windows of her own nonprofit. Here are two links:http://hildygottlieb.com/2009/12/02/transparency-community-engagement-part-2/ and http://hildygottlieb.com/2009/12/29/planning-to-change-the-world-2009s-wow-list/.

    And lastly, I totally agree that PresenTense is turning the idea of organizations on its head. It would so be great if so many more opened up to inclusionary decision-making!

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Debra –
    Love the PresenTense concept. I’ve been watching them and fascinated for some time now. So many great things can happen with this model.

    Jeff,
    Love the idea of introducing this to organizations for events. I spent over 10 years managing events and attending industry events and wow would this be fantastic. The Event industry is host to some of the brightest, most energetic and innovative people, but its not always quick to accept big change or the most transparent. Talk about turning things upside down. It would certainly have an impact and I agree I’d pay to be a member of an organization “by the people for the people”. In fact, I’d be interested in working on a model like this.

    Debra, thanks for posting, I need to get out and visit PresenTense.

    [Reply]

    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Hi Mati-
    Nice to meet you here! Thanks for commenting. I think you might be also interested in the Community Driven Institute, which just announced that they will also be an open source organization. Hildy Gottlieb is really committed to open organizations (she is also a Board consultant), and as such, has opened up the doors and windows of her own nonprofit. Here are two links:http://hildygottlieb.com/2009/12/02/transparency-community-engagement-part-2/ and http://hildygottlieb.com/2009/12/29/planning-to-change-the-world-2009s-wow-list/.

    And lastly, I totally agree that PresenTense is turning the idea of organizations on its head. It would so be great if so many more opened up to inclusionary decision-making!

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Thanks for the links! I’ll check it out.

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Thanks for the links! I’ll check it out.

    [Reply]

  • Mati:

    I agree the Events industry is slow to change. There is a robust of event professionals in social media that are leading the charge. You can follow the Twitter hashtag #eventrprofs to see some of them.

    I also love the idea of Events and Conferences “For the people, by the people!”

    [Reply]

  • Mati:

    I agree the Events industry is slow to change. There is a robust of event professionals in social media that are leading the charge. You can follow the Twitter hashtag #eventrprofs to see some of them.

    I also love the idea of Events and Conferences “For the people, by the people!”

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Jeff,

    Thanks, I’ve been following you and other #eventprofs for some time and enjoying some quality tweets.
    Looking forward to catching you there
    @mati4real

    [Reply]

  • Mati

    Jeff,

    Thanks, I’ve been following you and other #eventprofs for some time and enjoying some quality tweets.
    Looking forward to catching you there
    @mati4real

    [Reply]

About

Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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